Better with brett — the Wig and Pen’s new brews

The Wig and Pen currently offers four beers fermented with the spoilage yeast brettanomyces (brett)some in conjunction with the bacteria lactobacillus and pediococcus ­– and one aged, post ferment, in barrels with a brett population.

These normally unwelcome microbes add exotic aromas and flavours to the beers, well removed from the pure malty, fruity, hoppy characters we find in standard lagers and ales.

But the Wig’s customers, me included, love the sharp, pungent, sweet and sour character of these beers. That’s no different, I suppose, than learning to enjoy sherry’s distinctive, pungent flavour caused by aldehyde compounds – the product of intentionally oxidised alcohol.

The almost-sold-out, delightfully fruity, tart but gentle Brett, an English pale ale style, is to be replaced by Sour Blonde, Bob’s Armpit, LPG and Rye of the Liger – a wonderfully diverse and adventurous range of beers.

Wig and Pen Rye of the Liger Lager half pint $7
Brewer Richard Watkins wonders is this the only brettanomyces brewed lager in the world? It’s a medium amber colour, with an abundant head, cereal-like aroma (rye comprises 25 per cent of the malt) and rich, caramel-like flavours. There’s a slight, exotic funkiness to the aroma and a mild, pleasant sourness in the finish.

Wig and Pen Sour Blonde 200ml $7
Sour Blonde combines wheat beers of various ages (18 months barrel aged, 18 weeks and 18 days), all fermented with brettanomyces yeast. The flavour’s vibrant and lemony, with wheat beer’s distinctive brisk acidity. Barrel ageing adds to the creamy, soft texture. And brett provides an exotic sweaty and sour note to a most refreshing brew.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 3 October 2012 in The Canberra Times